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3/31/2009
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George Crump
George Crump
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Card Based SSD's

With Texas Memory Systems' recent announcement of their RamSan-20 they have joined Fusion-io in the Flash SSD on a card market. What is interesting about these solutions is that they make SSD attractive to a whole new host of users.

With Texas Memory Systems' recent announcement of their RamSan-20 they have joined Fusion-io in the Flash SSD on a card market. What is interesting about these solutions is that they make SSD attractive to a whole new host of users.There are two primary reasons for this; first of all they hit a price point that will allow users to dip their toe in the SSD waters with minimal risk. These cards typically retail below $20k for about 400 - 500gb's of SSD storage. The second is that these cards do not require a SAN, in fact they can't leverage a SAN, at least out of the box.

This creates an interesting scenario that we did not address in our State of Solid State Disk presentation. These cards may actually delay and for some customers significantly delay the move to a shared storage environment.

As a customer's IT investment grows there becomes a tipping point where a SAN or NAS makes sense. That point can be caused by a variety of reasons and one of those is the need to increase performance or to better allocate available storage capacity. If performance is one of your motivators, you often end up buying fast hard drives that offer more capacity than the application you need to improve performance on needs. Generally substantially more capacity.

Instead of wasting that capacity customers will often choose a shared storage solution. What if instead of buying the fast drives with tons of capacity you decide to take that same investment and just buy faster storage? Essentially one of these PCI-E based SSDs is equivalent to a shelf of storage from a cost perspective. The SSD will handily out-perform the shelf of storage but the shelf of storage will easily deliver more capacity. Many users may decide to go through the effort of sharing that storage is not worth the additional cost of switches, HBA's and complexity just to solve one point specific performance problem, where a PCI-E SSD will eliminate it.

I don't expect that PCI based SSDs will stop SANs in their tracks; far from it. There are and will continue to be SAN based SSDs that will continue to increase in performance capabilities and density. Just like mechanical drive base SAN storage it will make sense to share those SSDs and leverage the investment across multiple servers. Overall however card based SSDs will expand the overall market potential for SSDs, get more data centers using them and lay the ground work for more SAN based solutions.

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George Crump is founder of Storage Switzerland, an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. It provides strategic consulting and analysis to storage users, suppliers, and integrators. An industry veteran of more than 25 years, Crump has held engineering and sales positions at various IT industry manufacturers and integrators. Prior to Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest integrators.

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